Contrasting reflections on Easter from Rachmaninoff
To complete my little series of musical reflections for that I started on Good Friday (and I'm honestly not sure what possessed me, so to speak, to start it in the first place), I thought I'd turn to Rachmaninoff, whose birthday I noted earlier in the week.
I remembered his song about Easter, "Christ is Risen," a song that is far from uplifting. The composer's setting of a poem by Dmitry Merezhkovsky carries a potent message about the failures of humanity, failures that are as obvious on this Easter Sunday as they were when Rachmnainoff composed the music in 1906:
" 'Christ is risen' they sing in the holy places, but I feel sad. My soul is silent. So much blood and so many tears are shed in the world and this song of praise before the altars offends like a mockery. If he were among us and could see the achievements of our glorious age, how brothers have come to hate one another ... if he were in the glittering churches and heard 'Christ is risen,' he would weep."
I found a fine performance of the song by a young Dmitry Hvorostovsky (he was also on my mind earlier in the week, so he seemed a perfect choice).
But I don't want to leave you with only these dark thoughts about Easter, so I've followed that clip with another piece by Rachmaninoff called "Christ is Risen," this one a movement from his sublime Vespers of 1915, and with a sacred text that provides a calming contrast to the gloom of the first piece. I hope you enjoy these reflections of Easter, from two very different sides, by the same extraordinary composer: